It’s a new-tech material with some pretty amazing properties – and some pretty large scale implications for the future. Graphene is a super-thin touchscreen material that is bendable, transparent and more durable than steel. According to one Cornell Univ. professor, “Everything it does, it does really, really well.” It’s ideal for wearable devices like smartwatches, as well as for tablets, and it’s even foldable. Imagine folding up your phone before sticking it back in your pocket.
And one company, Samsung, is way ahead of everybody else when it comes to patenting the stuff. They already have filed over 200 patents – IBM is next at 64, and Apple has just 2.
The thing is, graphene is so thin it was originally patented as a two-dimensional object. That’s because it’s only composed “of a single layer of atoms tightly bonded into a hexagonal lattice,” according to an article in the June 2, 2014 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Two fellows from the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics for it in 2010.
Many are predicting that graphene will become the key mobile device screen technology before long, and the first to market will have substantial advantage in a market projected to reach nearly $850 billion in three years, according to market researcher Yankee Group. And that’s just for traditional mobile devices, and does not include impending smart watches, which should add billions more.
Patents exist for a process that can make sheets of graphene as large as over four feet diagonally. Samsung’s patents are said to be key in making cost efficient large scale graphene panels in volume.
But wait, as they say, there’s more! Graphene also has remarkable electrical conduct properties, about 100 times faster than silicon so it’s also likely to end up in memory chips and TVs too – which also happen to be device areas where Samsung already leads.
Future applications might also extend to “smart” clothing featuring sensors, chips and displays. Graphene’s thin form factor and heat-dispersing qualities mean it’s also an ideal candidate for everything from firefighters’ gear to space suits.
Like we said, you will be hearing more about this stuff. New materials like graphene will extend our definition of ‘space age’ materials well into the future.